Russell Wilson is one of the biggest names in football – and not just because he is married to famous popstar Ciara! He is a model of dependability at the quarterback position with MVP-level talent and a Super Bowl victory under his belt. Before he became an established superstar in the National Football League, however, he had to prove that he belonged not just in the league but in the sport itself. Fortunately for Wilson, his consistent play coincided with his penchant for shattering others’ expectations of him. Russell Wilson is a shining example of our motto personified – don’t do they, DUYU!
Russell Wilson was born into a family of athletes. His grandfather played football and basketball at Kentucky State University and his father played football and baseball at Dartmouth. Naturally, the younger Wilson wasted little time becoming a talented multisport athlete in his own right. At the prep school he attended in Virginia, Wilson excelled at basketball, baseball, and especially football, playing the most important position in the sport – quarterback. As a senior, he was named an all-conference and all-state player as well as the conference player of the year in route to winning the state championship, ultimately earning a scholarship to play football at North Carolina State University.
A quintessential high school star athlete, Russell Wilson found early and unobstructed success. College, however, would prove more challenging and present Wilson with his first major obstacles to achieving his dreams. Coming into the program, Tom O’Brien, Wilson’s new head coach who had recruited him to play quarterback, surprisingly informed him that he would be moving to the defensive side of the ball to play the safety position. Wilson, though, was undeterred. Expressing supreme confidence in himself – a prominent theme throughout his career – he informed his coach that he would instead win the starting quarterback position (spoiler alert: he did).
As a freshman in 2008, Wilson initially split time as a starter before fully taking over the role part-way through the year. Despite his lack of experience in college football, Wilson helped NC State close out the regular season on a four-game winning streak and secure a birth to a bowl game. Wilson suffered a knee sprain in the first half of the bowl game and his team was unable to secure a victory without him, but his efforts throughout the season earned him first-team All-ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) honors – it was the first time in conference history that a freshman quarterback had been named to the first team.
Two seasons later, Wilson led NC State to a 9-4 record that culminated in a bowl victory. He led the conference in numerous statistics and was named second-team All-ACC as well as the runner up for ACC Football Player of the Year. At that point, it had been mostly smooth sailing for Wilson. However, he would soon face a decision that would shape the entire course of his career.
“Since I was in high school, I wanted to play professional football and professional baseball, be a two-sport star.”
Despite Russell Wilson’s success as a college quarterback, he never relinquished his dream of following in the footsteps of his then-late father and becoming a true dual sport athlete, continuing to play baseball at NC State. Entering his final season of college football eligibility, Wilson announced that he would report to spring training with Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies, who had obtained his rights in the previous year’s draft. This decision meant that he would miss spring football practices before the fall season, and to say his coach was displeased would be a massive understatement.
Furious, O’Brien informed Wilson – a proven winner and three-year starter – that they were going in a different direction at starting quarterback and he was not welcome to return to the team for his senior year. During that fateful phone conversation, he also let Wilson know that he had no future playing football professionally.
“Coach told me, ‘Listen, son, you’re never going to play in the National Football League. You’re too small. There’s no chance. You’ve got no shot.’”
Russell Wilson was devastated, but he didn’t lose faith in himself. He transferred to Wisconsin before the 2011 season, where he led his new team to an 11-4 record, a Big Ten Conference Championship Game victory, and an appearance in the iconic Rose Bowl game. For his heroics, Wilson earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was also named a third-team All-American – the highest individual achievement of his career at the time. Following the season, Wilson declared for the NFL draft, moving one step closer to his dream.
Yet despite Wilson’s prolific college career, he was not slated to go very high in the draft. Standing just below six feet tall at 5”11, THEY SAID he was too short to play quarterback in the NFL, echoing the assertion of his once college coach. Eventually, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round of the draft – a pick that was criticized by many. He was the sixth quarterback selected (behind five players who are no longer starters).
Wilson had many doubters, but he never bought into their pigeonholing of what he was and was not capable of accomplishing. He wasted little time getting to work with the Seahawks, surprising everyone but himself by beating out two veterans in Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson for the starting quarterback position – just as he did coming into NC State. In his first year, Wilson not only lead his team to the postseason but even picked up his first playoff victory – a rare feat for a rookie quarterback.
Then, in only his second year in the NFL, Wilson followed up his inaugural season’s performance by doing something that few others had – winning a Super Bowl. With the help of the Seahawks’ elite defense, Wilson obliterated Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos with an embarrassing score line of 43-8. By 2013, so early into his professional football career, Wilson had already reached the pinnacle of success in the sport that others had only dreamed of.
“I have high expectations of myself. I always have, always will. That will never waver. I always believe in my talent – always have.”
In the years since his Super Bowl victory, Russell Wilson has made another Super Bowl appearance, been named an AP All-Pro, and become the highest-paid player in the NFL (at signing). He has also maintained his dream of becoming a professional dual-sport athlete, and in 2018 he attended spring training with the New York Yankees, his favorite team growing up whom he’d promised his father he would one day play for. Today, Russell Wilson has become a household name and is unanimously considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Judging by his accolades and achievements alone, no one could imagine he was someone who was kicked off of his college team and branded too short to succeed in the NFL. Thankfully for Wilson and football fans everywhere, he never even entertained the idea of DOING THEY. “Don’t do they, DUYU!”